Nope, still don't own Naruto.
Neji was doomed. He was certain of this. He had carefully collected the evidence, weighed up the points for and against and arrived at the conclusion via a series of logical steps.
He, Hyuuga Neji, was doomed.
'Today started off so well, too,' he thought as he and Hinata walked towards Team Gai's usual training ground. No missions, Naruto-san and his team out of the village on (apparently) a two-week escort mission (payback from their jounin sensei, or so the grapevine had it. Something about a crushed bookshop), his efforts with the Cat contract finally bearing fruit (where the Toad contract gave the untrained Summoner tadpoles and the Snake contract tiny grass-snakes, the Cat contract called up wiry, vicious alley-cats. Neji had not been pleased!). A rather pleasant day, in other words.
And then, with a simple request from his cousin, he was Doomed.
"You want to what?!"
It took a great deal to bring open emotion to the features of a male Hyuuga. Under normal circumstances, anything less than an open death threat would provoke, at best, a raised eyebrow. To provoke something of the magnitude of the yell that has startled birds from roofs across the entire Hyuuga district would take something incredible, something unthinkable, something-
"I-I want to ask Gai-sensei for strength training, Neji-niisan."
Yep, that'll do it.
Neji made a brave attempt to wrap his mind around the concept of anyone not an insane devotee of a blinding colour actually willingly choosing to inflict Gai-sensei's training on themselves, only to fail.
Brushing that aside (for the sake of his mental health), the Hyuuga prodigy cast an assessing gaze at his now-fidgeting cousin.
'Let's see…blush, finger-twiddling, that stutter…Dammit.'
"It's because of Naruto-san isn't it, Hinata-sama?"
To his surprise and (secretly) pride, the inevitable fluorescent blush following the mention of the blond for once did not herald a lapse into unconsciousness for the bluenette.
"Um…yes. Yes, it is."
Neji sighed. "Very well, but why Gai-sensei, out of all the jounin in Konoha?"
Pacing in her room (surprisingly to most who thought they knew her, not bright orange or filled with Naruto imagery. It wasn't as though she needed to be reminded of what her Naruto-kun looked like, after all!), Hinata considered matters.
'Alright Hinata, just like Kurenai-sensei said. Examine the situation from a logical perspective.'
Fact: Naruto-kun was now very, very strong.
Fact: Naruto-kun was now training with Tenten-senpai from Neji-niisan's team.
Fact: Naruto-kun was, as a result of this, getting close to Tenten-senpai.
Fact: If something were not done, she would lose her Naruto-kun!
Bolting upright on her bed, the look of fierce determination on Hinata's face would likely have shocked those who knew her.
Clearly, there was some common thread to the women Naruto-kun liked. Isolating the common thread would allow her to more easily make use of it. What could it be, though?
Sakura-san had a bad temper that could be mistaken for 'spirit', but both Shizune-san and Tenten-senpai were quite calm. Shizune-san and Tenten-senpai were older, but not Sakura-san. Tenten-senpai had that weapons-thing, but that ruled out the other two.
Flopping down on her bed with a huff, Hinata pouted. It was so frustrating! About the only thing they seemed to have in common was that they were…all…strong…
Shizune-san was an accomplished jounin and practitioner of a very challenging branch of ninjutsu. Strong.
Tenten-senpai practiced a physical art and held her own as the only female in a team of geniuses. Strong.
And Sakura-san, well, despite her lack of skills as a shinobi, no-one who had ever seen her lose her temper would deny her personal strength. Strong.
Clearly, then, it was strength that Naruto-kun was attracted to! Even his mother-in-all-but-blood Tsunade-sama was strong! That was it!
Conclusion reached, Hinata once again resorted to logic.
Supposition: growing stronger would allow her to get closer to Naruto-kun.
Fact: training with someone strong would allow her to get stronger.
Fact: Neji-niisan's jounin sensei, Maito Gai, was the physically strongest shinobi in Konoha.
Fact: Naruto-kun was currently receiving training with Team Gai.
Fact: training with Team Gai would allow her to grow stronger and get closer to Naruto-kun!
Conclusion: she would arrange for training from Maito Gai-sensei!
"Hinata-sama," sighed Neji as he strove to block out the hopeful gaze of his cousin. "I admire that you wish to get stronger, but you are family. There is nothing you can do that will make me allow Gai-sensei to inflict his ideas of training on you."
"…Three new plushies and the new, uncensored, 'Kittens of Konoha' calendar."
"Gai-sensei, I would like you to meet my cousin, Hyuuga Hinata."
'Curse my love of the Cute! Curse it!'
Wincing both at the volume of Gai-sensei's greeting and the thought of what Hinata-sama was about to inflict upon herself, Neji glumly contemplated the myriad, inventive, Hiashi-dono-inflicted punishments that surely lay in his future.
In fact, that was another area worthy of gloom. In the months following Neji's battle with Naruto-san in the Chuunin exams and the subsequent reconciliation between nephew and uncle, Hiashi-dono had made a rather abrupt about-face in his attitude toward his daughters. A subtle change, certainly (at least to a non-Hyuuga) - Hiashi-dono was still every bit as stern and stoic as ever- but where before that reserve hid a firm disdain and lack of concern for his daughters' fates, it now hid a raging and at times alarming paternal protectiveness.
It was common knowledge within the Hyuuga compound that Hinata-hime and Hanabi-hime would be living under curfews until they were thirty.
Hence Neji's present dismay. Since the new Hiashi-dono had yet to develop a sense of proportion concerning his daughters, a grazed knee or inconsequential act of rudeness would more likely than not be met with the same response as an attempted assassination, either response being delivered with the same cool, emotionless Hyuuga efficiency.
Neji made a mental note to have a quiet word with the Green Beasts as soon as possible on the subject of proper behaviour, improper and the violent, Byakugan-impelled vengeance that would inevitably follow the latter.
Carefully noting from the shadows that the all-too-familiar genjutsu had dissipated, the stoic young man sighed. He definitely should have stayed in bed.
Hinata had to admit, she had been a little apprehensive at the thought of training with Neji-niisan's sensei. There were stories about the bowl-cut jounin, crazy stories about insane training. Carrying boulders, kicking through tree-trunks, that sort of thing. Hinata, being the kind-hearted soul she was, had always dismissed the stories as rumour and exaggeration, with perhaps a touch of envy on the part of the speaker. They couldn't possibly be true!
Now though, as she stared at the burning eyes (casting faint shadows from their brightness) and shining grin of her temporary sensei, the young Hyuuga found she could believe every single one.
She was no longer a little apprehensive. No, she was now extremely apprehensive!
Snapping out of her nervous reverie, the shy bluenette jerked upright as Gai spoke.
"So tell me, Hinata-chan, why do you wish to take part in our Youthful Training?"
"Ano…I-I wish to get stronger…for someone important to me, and Kurenai-sensei said your training w-was the best for that."
In point of fact, Kurenai-sensei's words had been more along the lines of "Gai's training will make you insanely strong, but you'd need to BE insane to try it". Hinata had felt the paraphrasing could be forgiven, considering the good cause. Besides, the kunoichi persuasion classes she had taken at the Academy had stressed the importance of flattery in negotiations.
Judging by the look on Gai-sensei's face, the gambit had paid off. Puffing up slightly, the green-clad jounin placed his hands on his hips as he smiled approvingly.
"Well then!" he exclaimed. "As a favour to your increasingly Youthful cousin-"
Neji stifled a shiver at the description.
"- I shall assist in the realising of your youthful fires. Hinata-chan! Lee!"
Fortunately for the now thoroughly-terrified Hyuuga heiress, Gai released the Three-Way Hug of Youth (patent pending) when he noticed his newest student going limp. A few hurried apologies and a great deal of gasping later and the three set about the training.
Neji and Tenten, meanwhile, bowed their heads in prayer.
"Yosh. You have stated the desire to become strong as quickly as possible, Hinata-chan," said Gai, his bearing uncharacteristically serious. Continuing at Hinata's nod (and ignoring the smell of incense wasting from Tenten and Neji's direction), he gestured her over to a pile of stones.
"I will be truthful, Hinata-chan. This training will require every spark and flicker of your spirit and willpower. It will be exhausting and at times painful. But I promise you, you will be stronger than you have ever been, if your drive is firm enough." He paused, eyes calmly meeting her own nervous gaze. "What is your decision?"
Strong. Strong plus Hinata equalled Naruto-attention. Naruto-attention plus time plus effort equalled snuggles! Snuggles plus time equalled…
Gai and Lee shared a concerned look as the shy girl flushed a Youthful but slightly worrying red, eyes glazing over and a silly grin appearing on her face
Tenten twitched from where she was idly twirling a double-ended chain-flail ("Mr. Smashy-smash"). Neji silently winced at the narrow-eyed glare he was suddenly receiving.
'Oh goodie,' he thought bitterly as his apparently-aggravated team-mate straightened. 'Dodging practice today.'
Lee took a cautious step forward when the fugue went into the second minute.
"I'LL DO IT! Eto, I mean, yes, Gai-sensei. For the person I admire, I will accept the training!"
Gai's features, formerly serious, were transformed as a proud smile appeared on his face.
"Yosh! The Flames of Youth are strong in you, Hinata-chan! Let the Training begin! Come Hinata-chan, Lee! We shall now run one hundred laps of Konoha!"
"And…one hundred! Well done, Hinata-chan! Now, we shall climb the Hokage Monument thirty times using only our hands! Yosh!"
"Thirty, excellent! Now, one thousand squat-jumps while holding a boulder!"
"Well done, Hinata-chan! Next, two hundred push-ups while in a handstand!"
"And finally, thirty laps of Konoha at a full sprint with weights on our ankles!"
Arriving back at the training ground in a cloud of dust, Gai beamed approvingly at his students. Really, the level of enthusiasm and dedication demonstrated by the young heiress was inspiring! Not only had she not bowed out of the training (and Gai was in fact fully aware that most people considered his training methods a tad extreme), she had managed to keep up!
Granted, she seemed a bit tired and out of breath, but there was clearly potential!
Truly inspiring, that's what it was. Why, even the Youthful Neji and Tenten were going about their training with added fervour. One might almost think Tenten really was attempting to dismember her comrade, such was the energy being displayed!
"Well," he said, flicking a slight sheen of sweat from his brow. "Now that we have warmed up our Youthful fires with some light exercise, let us begin the training proper!"
"As I said, once Hinata-chan has gargled and washed her face, let us begin the training proper!"
"Yosh! I shall assist Hinata-san to the stream, Gai-sensei. She seems slightly fatigued."
Nodding his approval to the green-garbed genin who proceeded to slip one of Hinata's arms over his shoulders and all but carry her off, Gai considered.
Goken would not truly serve in this instance. Strength was more a precursor and prerequisite for goken than an effect, after all. Standard weight training was out as well. Bulky muscle was a no-no for shinobi, kunoichi in particular. No, what was required here was strengthened and lengthened fast-twitch muscle, reinforced slow-twitch and some skeletal development. As quickly as possible, no less.
Gai's sudden grin brought shivers to the spines of everyone within the city walls.
'Finally,' he thought eagerly. 'An opportunity to use that jutsu!'
Once she had washed her face and rinsed the remnants of breakfast from her teeth, Hinata was feeling quite a bit better about the training. Oh, she was still in agony, make no mistake about that! But there was also the undeniable fact that she had managed to keep up. She hadn't quit, hadn't given up and hadn't stopped until Gai-sensei had called the halt! For the first time in a very long while, Hinata felt a sense of real accomplishment.
And then there was Lee-senpai. She honestly found it a little surprising that anyone on a team with both Gai-sensei and Neji-niisan (their many admirable traits notwithstanding) could be such a gentleman, but there you go. Lee-senpai had helped her to the stream, steadied her as she washed her face and even produced a towel for her from somewhere when she was done, all the while exclaiming over the "Brightness of her Youthful Fires" at having made it through the 'warm-up' and delicately avoiding mention of her embarrassing gastric malfunction.
It was easy to see why Lee-senpai was friends with Naruto-kun, she thought with a giggle. The same open, cheerful optimism about people was a defining trait in both of them, as well as that bouncy energy that seemed to crackle in the air when they got excited.
'Like Akamaru with a ball.' She thought, Lee casting a curious glance her way at the quiet chuckle that slipped out.
A very deeply hidden part of Hinata's shy and gentle soul seized on the comparison line of thought and threw out an image of Naruto-kun in Lee-senpai's stretchy suit, prompting the Hinata O.S to engage some emergency breaker switches to stave off a lapse into unconsciousness. Fighting off the blush with the experience of frequent practice (though saving the mental image for further and extended examination), the flustered heiress returned to her musing with a slight smile.
In fact, she thought as she politely waved off Lee-senpai's offered arm, if it weren't for the mind-numbing and agonising muscle pain and exhaustion, this training session would be quite pleasant.
Her good mood lasted right up until she re-entered the clearing and caught sight of what Gai-sensei was holding.
"Ah, back on your feet so quickly!" roared the eccentric jounin, the lavender spandex suit fluttering in the breeze produced. "Yosh! It speaks well of your Youthful Fires that they have re-kindled with such speed! You are much like the vibrantly Youthful Naruto-kun in that respect!"
Normally, being compared favourably with her crush and object of rose-tinted devotion would send the gentle girl into a swooning, blissful fugue-state. In this case, however, Hinata's mind failed to even register the compliment, occupied as it was with a silent prayer concerning the suit.
'Please be for Neji, please be for Neji…'
"Now," continued Gai, mistaking Hinata's apprehension for eagerness. "To further your Youthful strength training, I have arranged for you this Youthful training suit of Youthfulness!"
That's right, Gentle Reader. Hinata thinks words she would never say.
"Please put it on, that your Youthful training may be accelerated."
"Yosh!" shouted Lee, fist clenched in manly excitement. "Hinata-san will surely be filled with the Flames of Youth in such a garment! I feel inspired!"
Making a mental note to repress the memory of this training as much as possible (the Man-Hug no Jutsu ranking fairly close to the top of the deletion list), Hinata trudged into the leafy shade to change. Condensing and releasing a sharp chakra pulse (both to short out any hiding techniques and as a painful lesson in privacy to any stickybeak doujutsu), she cast a peeved glance at the Suit and sighed.
'If I had known this training would involve spandex I'd have gone with the examiner lady in the trench-coat from the Chuunin exams after all, scary or not!'
All across Konoha, man, woman and beast shuddered in sudden terror.
Donning the Suit (and it deserved the capital letter, oh my, yes), the by now thoroughly dismayed Hyuuga heiress stalked back to her sensei, face bright red and gaze downcast in displeasure. This was so embarrassing! The Suit…clung! And- And…gripped! It didn't hide her figure at all! She, Hyuuga Hinata, would have to walk around in lavender spandex!
Hinata sullenly emerged from the undergrowth, firmly slipping her jacket on over the suit, her expression making it abundantly clear that a line was being drawn, beyond which there lay monsters.
"Ah, Hinata-chan!" roared Gai at her return (silently noting the small act of defiance and approving). "Your Youthfulness fairly shines forth! I shall now explain the significance of the Maito Training Suit."
Hinata (having been firmly raised by her nannies in the "If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all" philosophy) judged it safest to maintain a respectful silence and watch for any passing flickers of meaning in the probable torrent of words.
"The Maito Training Suit of Youth is the crowning achievement of my clan," the energetic jounin continued, his voice losing some (but by no means all) of its bombasticity. "My ancestors were technique designers by speciality, designers of genjutsu, ninjutsu, fuuinjutsu. In virtually any technique scroll you may lay a hand on in Konoha, you will find a contribution from my clan. Yes," he continued at Hinata's now-fascinated look, "If it is not a family or clan-developed technique, odds are that a Maito has been involved in the development. And yet, it is in Taijutsu that my family truly shine. Taijutsu, when ninjutsu is defeated, genjutsu is dispelled and fuuinjutsu broken. Taijutsu developed, strengthened and perfected through the aid of the other three schools of techniques. And now that you have donned the Suit," he straightened, a broad, happy, yet utterly terrifying smile appearing on his face, "we can begin…"
Tenten watched the interaction from across the clearing with mixed and conflicted feelings. The greater part of her, it being abundantly clear to all just who the young kunoichi's "special someone" was, wanted to unfurl her scrolls, to call forth her armament in wrath and divine stabby vengeance on the interloper.
Or at least to make it abundantly clear just who had first dibs on the whiskered blond, she thought, distractedly flicking a kunai at the only other Hyuuga within range.
"Oops, sorry Neji!"
Tuning out Neji's ranting, Tenten sighed. As cathartic and satisfying as going all Sengoku on the shy heiress would be, she knew it was ultimately impractical.
'Damn anti-justifiable murder laws!'
Still, there was another part of her that could actually admire the bluenette's dedication. As unwelcome as having yet another contender for Naruto might be, it took real dedication to willingly go through Gai-sensei's training.
'Well, that or a serious mental problem…'
"Are you aiming for my head?!"
And when you came down to it, Hinata was legitimately trying to improve herself. Granted, her motive for said improvement was a little suspect, but willingness to go to outrageous lengths to become better was something that Higurashi "I once threw kunai for three straight days to improve my stance" Tenten could, at base, respect.
"Stop aiming for my head!"
That didn't mean she liked it, though!
Absentmindedly unsealing another scroll of pointy implements (to Neji's silent dismay), Tenten pondered. It was possible that the pearl-eyed girl would give up during the training, thus neatly removing herself from the field. Unlikely, though; if she hadn't been discouraged by now, she'd probably muscle through on pure will-power.
"Aah! My hair-!
So. Assume she makes it through, gets as strong as she hopes and Gai-sensei intends. Would Naruto like the end result?
"Why would you hurt my hair?!"
Probably, but not in the way the Hyuuga was thinking. Likely as not, the whiskered blond would prove as clueless as he normally was and just complement Hinata on "getting stronger", leaving things as they were.
Yes, she thought. Better to see how matters turned out and just scale up her own actions.
"Come now, Hinata-chan! five hundred push-ups! Let your Youth blaze forth!"
As the shy girl wincingly began the exercises (with Lee doing the same in the interests of fellow-feeling), Gai beamed with pride as he began his explanations.
"As I said, Hinata-chan, the Training Suit is the product of considerable work in the field of fuuinjutsu. You may be feeling chakra pooling in your limbs?"
"Yes, Gai-sensei. H-how…?"
"There are specialised chakra feedback/genjutsu seals woven into the fabric over the primary muscle groups and nerve clusters. As you exercise the muscles, the seals will feed the radiant chakra produced back into the muscles concerned, accelerating the speed of development by several orders of magnitude and eliminating a good portion of the fatigue. How are you feeling?"
"Um, good, Gai-sensei," Hinata replied with a blink of surprise. "My arms, back and chest feel a little tired, but not too bad. There's an odd tingling, though…"
"That will be the Youthful Feedback Seals stimulating the growth of muscle tissue." Replied the jounin with a beaming smile of approval. "We shall now undertake a youthful conditioning regimen in order for the Suit to develop your muscles and skeleton sufficiently for Phase Two."
More than a little unsettled at the fact that even the energetic and positive Lee had a look of fear and concern at the mention of "Phase Two", Hinata silently nodded while mentally commending her spirit to the heavens.
"Now then," continued Gai, his tone growing in volume and energy. "Fifty laps of Konoha at a full sprint, Hinata-chan! The power of Youth compels you! Explode!"
"Yosh! Yes, Hinata-san, let us burn with Youthfulness as we prove the genius of Hard Work!" roared Lee (privately feeling that he had remained Unyouthfully silent entirely long enough). "I shall strengthen myself beside Hinata-san, that we may enhance our Youth to greater heights!"
"Lee! Your Youthfulness moves me! Yes, let us go! For Youth!"
Eyebrow twitching slightly (but elegantly. Hyuuga thing) as she followed the dual Green Beasts' dust trail, Hinata gritted her teeth as the buzz of chakra arose in her legs and lower back.
'Making Naruto-kun proud, making Naruto-kun proud…'
On a well-travelled highway some five days out from Konoha, a certain orange-clad blond Force of Destruction nearly fell off the wagon on which he was riding as he sneezed abruptly. Shrugging, he returned his focus to watching for threats to the convoy and quietly cursing Kakashi-sensei for taking the most boring D- disguised as a B-Rank mission that ever was.
Several days passed. As promised, the training was exhausting, painful and strenuous. More than once, she had simply passed out the moment training had finished, being helped (or more commonly) carried back to the Hyuuga compound by Neji and a touchingly concerned Lee.
There had been times (typically after the third or fourth set of five hundred push-ups, or the fifth set of learn-by-experience grappling kata) when she had come very close to quitting. To giving up the agonising stretching techniques, the muscle conditioning, the constant exhaustion and (not incidentally) the seemingly constant yelling, and returning to her old world, where Hyuuga Hinata may have been weak and shy and unconfident, but was at least not expected to perform deep leg squats in sets of a hundred while holding a boulder!
And yet, for all that, she didn't. Whenever the voice that urged her to quit made itself known, there was always something there to so silence it again. Gai-sensei would beam at her and roar out his satisfaction at her efforts, or Neji-nii would catch her eye with that look of amazement, or Lee-senpai would flash her a grin or his famous 'Nice Guy Pose' as he trained alongside her and her arms wouldn't feel as tired, her legs would hurt a little less, and the fire she was feeling inside would burn a little higher, and she begin again.
And even better, she was getting results! Apparently, when Gai-sensei used the phrase "several orders of magnitude faster" in relation to muscle growth, he really meant "fast enough to send a long-term steroid junky into a jealous rage". The basic physical conditioning routine had been accelerating frighteningly fast, in both repetitions and intensity. The basic set of five hundred push-ups had become fifteen hundred with a slightly flustered Lee-senpai sitting on her back, for example. Her running speed on their laps of the city walls was now sufficient that, provided neither of them removed their weights or really went all out, she could keep up with Gai-sensei and Lee-senpai. For a lap or two, at least.
A slight grin crossed her face as she continued her third set of ab crunches from her position on the underside of a tree branch. There had been one or two other benefits that, while unexpected, were highly welcome.
Juken, for example. She had, that morning, run through her normal Juken practice of precision strikes on a heavy sandbag and had been somewhat shocked to see her fingertips smoothly perforating the heavy layered canvas.
The slow grin that had appeared on her face at the sight of the slowly draining bag had sent Neji (practicing at the other end of the dojo) bolting for his room, muttering something about "not for all the plushies in the world".
Hinata had, after making sure the anti-doujutsu seals on the dojo walls were active, proceeded to pummel the sandbag to within an inch of its existence, giggling madly in happy catharsis.
Violence could be fun! Who knew?
"Thanks, fox. You know, this isn't what I had in mind when you said you'd teach me 'an art of reading people, strategy, wit and intuition'."
"Shut up and play, Gaki. Full House!"
"Pay up, Tail-Boy!"
She would have considered it odd before, but there was something very…validating…about being able to unleash destruction on something deserving, she thought as the finished her crunches and smoothly dropped back to ground level. In fact, she concluded as she began a set of free-weight exercises, joined by Gai and Lee, once you got past the tearing, crippling pain and exhaustion, there really were definite benefits to this training.
And, once you got used to it, the Suit was actually kind of…cute.
Neji, deep in repression as he dodged kunai flung by an increasingly-tense and irritable Tenten, felt a cold chill flicker up his spine. A chill that cost him another five centimetres of fringe as his dodge failed to take him quite out of the path of a kunai.
"Why do you hate my hair, Gods?!?"
Tenten sighed. Great. First the spandex fest and now she got to deal with Neji on the Youthful Calming Tablet again. Yay.
This was clearly not her week, she thought, absently force-feeding the gibbering Hyuuga prodigy the pill through application of a headlock. Still, she brightened as a thought occurred, better to make the best of a bad situation. Slinging the now somewhat more mellow Neji over a shoulder, Tenten set off for the hospital.
'I wonder what Shizune's doing…?'
The clank of the seventy-kilo dumbbells striking the ground was quite loud as the three spandex-clad shinobi finished their exercises. "Very good, Hinata-chan, Lee-kun. your Youth is burning brightly! Lee! Make seven ascents of the Monument in squat jumps! Go!"
Gai nodded in approval at the departing Lee before turning back to Hinata, his expression becoming somewhat pensive.
"It is time, Hinata-chan, to move on to the second phase of the Youthful Strength Training. However," he mused, taking in the reserved look on the face of his temporary student, "I sense you have some reservations."
Oh no, what could she say to that? Gai-sensei had been so kind and supportive. How could she-?
"Do not be afraid to speak your mind, Hinata-chan," said the green one gently. "It is clearly something that concerns you."
Nodding and taking a deep breath, Hinata looked at her teacher directly.
"It is just that…the person I admire, who I w-want to make proud of me will be returning soon, and I-I don't think I am strong enough yet!"
Wincing, the young Hyuuga heiress stared at her feet. How could she be so rude? Gai-sensei had accepted her, trained her, given her the Suit and she was complaining? How-
Pleased chuckling broke through her mental tirade. Gingerly glancing back up, she was shocked and relieved at the broad grin on the jounin's face.
"The person you admire is very fortunate to know you, Hinata-chan. There is no shame in wanting to work hard for another. And do not worry!" he yelled suddenly, fingers moving through a long series of hand-seals, "your physical condition is now sufficiently improved to allow us to advance to Phase Two! Maito Family Training Technique: Montage no Jutsu!"
A flash of light and a full-body shiver later and Hinata opened her eyes to find herself in a dojo. Polished floors, walls festooned with racks of equipment and a wall-scroll with the kanji for 'Guts' decorating the wall directly ahead. Looking down, she found that she was still clad in the Suit, with the addition of wrist, ankle and belt weights.
"Welcome, Hinata-chan, to the Mental Training Hall."
Turning, she saw Gai-sensei, clad in a simple white gi, fixing her with an amused smile.
"This is the preliminary stage of Montage no Jutsu," he said, answering her unspoken question. "A blend, as I said, of nin-, gen- and fuuinjutsu, Montage no Jutsu can compress two weeks of intensive training into a single hour. Genjutsu provides the necessary mental constructs and time compression effect and ninjutsu, combined with the feedback seals in the Suit, allows the mental training to affect the physical body. A most Youthful technique, I feel!"
"B-But, a technique like this would be priceless! How-?"
"'How is it not better known?'" Gai finished for her. "There are several drawbacks to this technique," he continued at her nod. "First is the fact that the muscles and bones must be at a certain level of development or irreparable damage would be done to the body. Since that level is what most would term 'strong enough' anyway, most of those who might use this technique think it not worth the effort. As well, the subject's chakra network must be well-developed in order for the nin- and genjutsu to function properly."
"Is that why Lee-ku, er, Lee-senpai…?"
"Yes," he confirmed sadly. "If it were not for his condition, such a technique-!"
Shaking off his pensiveness, the jounin grew cheerful once more.
"Still, Lee has acquired great powers of Youth through his own hard work and willpower alone! A true inspiration!"
Smiling in response to the look of glowing pride on her teacher's face, Hinata schooled her expression to seriousness once more as Gai continued.
"The final drawback of Montage no Jutsu is that the caster must be included in the mental training as well. Not many have the patience to guide a student through two weeks of intensive training, unfortunately."
Hinata had a flash of Kakashi-sensei attempting the jutsu and managing to be two weeks later even then.
'Good,' thought Gai at the young girl's giggles. 'Relaxed is good.' Clearing his throat, he firmed his stance as the Hyuuga heiress stiffened.
"Now that explanations are finished, we shall begin. Are you ready?"
"Hai!" replied Hinata smartly, pale eyes determined.
Hinata felt the scene grow misty as, of all things, music began playing. Memories from her introduction to Kiba's record collection (it had taken all she had not to laugh at the dozens of Enka recordings) identified it as that new 'Rock' music, heavy on the guitar with a simple and regular beat.
Quite catchy, really.
As the first few bars progressed, scenes shimmered in her mind's eye, real and immediate as they played, as though she were truly there.
...Bench-pressing twenty kilos. Then forty. With one hand.
...Running through wrestling forms, the belt around her waist coloured to show her level. White belt. Green belt. Black belt.
...Chin-ups with ankle weights. Two hands. One hand. One finger.
...Squats. Squats while holding a weight. A rock. A boulder.
...Sit-ups. Sit-ups while holding a weight. Sit-ups while suspended from a tree. While holding a weight.
...Push-ups. Push-ups with weights. On one hand. On one finger.
The images accelerated, merging, parting. As they danced, some distracted part of Hinata, removed from the jutsu, marvelled at the feeling of power swiftly building in her limbs. Could this be what Gai-sensei, Lee-kun and Naruto-kun felt like all the time?
No wonder they were always so upbeat, this was amazing!
Gradually, though, the mill-race of scenes and images slowly faded into a quiet darkness as Hinata's psyche drifted into slumber.
"…mm. Five more minutes, Otou-sama…"
"Ah, greetings, Naruto-kun!"
Bolting upright, Hinata looked around frantically for the whiskered blond, face beet red. Sighing in relief when the search came up negative, she turned the full arctic fury of the Hyuuga Glare ™ at the green-clad genin responsible, causing him to raise his hands defensively.
"I apologise, Hinata-chan, but you seemed determined to sleep and Gai-sensei advised me that this tactic, though Unyouthful, would be effective."
"Anyway," interjected Gai (recognising the potential for Unyouthfulness in the glare now aimed in his direction). "How are you feeling, Hinata-chan? You took to the Montage no Jutsu very well, with most Youthful effects."
Blinking, Hinata rose to her feet (not noticing the shocked looks of her freshly-returned-from-the-hospital-and-still-a-little-elsewhere cousin and Tenten as her coat fell to the ground) and conducted a quick self-assessment.
"I feel…good." She said, flexing her arms, enjoying the sensations of dense muscles moving against each other. "Very good! Light, and…good! Wow!"
She could see the reasoning for the Suit, now. Probably nothing else would be as comfortable right now. Idly turning a leg-thick tree branch between her fingers and revelling in her new-found digit strength (juken strikes would be interesting now, oh yes!) she finally caught the gawking looks being cast at her.
"Ano…is something wrong?"
Wordlessly summoning a signal-mirror from a scroll, Hinata's bun-headed rival/senpai handed it to her and took a measured step to the rear.
Suddenly frightened, the bluenette shakily moved her gaze to the polished metal. Had something gone wrong? Was she deformed? Misshapen? She felt wonderful, but what if she was some warped, over-muscled freak? What if-?
Ok. Face was fine, no changes there. Maybe just a little more definition in the cheeks, but she could live with that.
Moving down. Neck, ok too. A little more muscle, but not too much. At least she still had a neck.
Shoulders. Ok, wow. Corded, dense yet compact muscle as far as she could see, the slightest twitch clearly visible through the spandex.
Arms, much the same. Not bulky by any means, but neither were they the willowy, slender arms of the Hyuuga ideal.
Swallowing nervously, Hinata angled the mirror further down.
Sweet heavens, she had a six-pack! No Hyuuga had a six-pack! Otou-sama didn't have a six-pack!
The sleek muscle of thighs and calves was almost a let-down after the shock of the six-pack, but at least it was now clear why Tenten-senpai and Neji-nii were staring.
As it happened, though, it was only Tenten who was shocked at the (formerly) petite Hyuuga's sudden development. Neji, still feeling some lingering effects from the Calming Tablet and the meeting with Shizune-san at the hospital for a quick detox treatment for the same, was lost in a mental image of Gai-sensei somehow being contagious interspersed with nightmarish images of just what Hiashi-dono was going to do to him for allowing the demented jounin to corrupt his "precious little girl".
Tenten, however, was indeed taking in the changes. It was not everyday, after all, that you saw someone go from 'doll-like' to, for want of a better term, 'buffed' in a single hour, especially a member of a clan famous for its gracile body-type.
"Yosh! Hinata-chan's flames of Youth are burning ever brighter!" exclaimed Lee. "Her previous beauty has been stoked by your youthful training, Gai-sensei!"
Blushing brilliantly (which somehow contrasted quite nicely with the lavender bodysuit), Hinata mumbled her thanks.
'That smile is just like Naruto-kun's.' she mused, fingers unconsciously tapping at the thought.
If the Gentle Reader has not hitherto seen an extremely well-muscled young lady in lavender spandex acting bashful, rest assured, it is a thoroughly adorable sight.
"Doomed. So very doomed. Utterly doomed."
Tenten absently planted an elbow into the muttering branch member's ribs as Gai looked on his newest success with pride.
"Yosh! Well done, Hinata-chan! Your youthfulness is blazing forth brilliantly! You have showed tremendous determination these past few days, as much as any of my youthful students! Know that, should you wish to further expand and fan your flames of youth, you will always be welcome to train with us."
"Yes, Hinata-chan," added Lee, the flames in his eyes veritable bonfires. "Your youthful determination has been an inspiration to us! Please lend your Youthfulness to us!"
'…that sounded so wrong.' Thought Tenten, schooling her features to stillness.
'They…actually want to train with me?' wondered Hinata in pleased surprise. Gai-sensei and Lee-kun were so kind!
Taking in the beaming smiles of the two Green ones (ignoring the horror on the face of her cousin) and the grudging respect on the face of Tenten-senpai, Hinata came to a decision. There was still some time before Naruto-kun was due to return and (if Gai-sensei's exuberant shouting was to be believed) many more exercises to try.
"Gai-sensei! Please train me further!" she said firmly, stutter gone.
Lee cheered, Tenten sighed, Neji passed out, and Gai…
Gai smiled, pride and approval beaming out like a burning brand. Taking a deep breath, he mustered his youthful strength and flashed the Nice Guy Pose, teeth glinting in the golden sunlight.
"Very well! Come, my youthful students! Fifty laps around Konoha to cool our burning blood!"
As Hyuuga Hinata ran after her part-time sensei and second-favourite genin, she smiled.
Life was indeed Youthful.
In the end, it was actually several days before the changes undergone by Hinata-sama came to Hiashi-dono's attention. Several very…tense... days on Neji's part, filled with anxiety and paranoia. Finally, just as a little flicker of hope had begun to spark, that perhaps Hiashi-dono would not be mad, he had been summoned to the clan leader's study.
"Neji-kun," said the stone-faced patriarch as the young man knelt in seiza. "I wonder if you might be able to explain some slight…changes…I have noticed in my eldest daughter."
"Changes," the clan head continued, smoothly over-running Neji's attempt at reply, "such as the set of dumbbells, bench-press rack and the nautilus machine now set up in her quarters?"
"Or her sudden appreciation of the wonders of spandex?"
"Or perhaps the dramatic increase in the frequency of the word 'Youth!' and its variants in her vocabulary?"
"Or, just maybe, you might offer some insight into the outcome of her most recent sparring match with her sister?" queried the stoic leader, picking up a sheet of paper.
"Ah yes," he said dryly. "The match began, Hanabi-chan attempted a disabling strike to the shoulder, Hinata-chan seized her by the wrist, applied a hitherto-unknown-to-us restraint hold, shouted, ahem, 'Divine Youthful Piledriver!'-"
"-and forcefully applied Hanabi-chan to the tatami. A victory, but a most…unconventional one, wouldn't you say?"
Correctly interpreting the pause as an instruction to speak, Neji cleared his throat. Explanation time.
"Hinata-sama expressed a desire to become physically stronger and had selected Gai-sensei as the best possible candidate as an instructor. I attempted to dissuade her from this course, but was unsuccessful." Bowing forward, he placed first his hands, then forehead on the floor. "My deepest apologies."
There. Done. All up to chance now. Either Hiashi-dono would unleash the full apocalyptic fury of his fatherly over-protectiveness and reduce him to a small, red, jellyfish-like thing, or he wouldn't. A curiously liberating feeling, really.
"Not at all, Neji-kun. I'm delighted."
Wow. That was unexpected.
"This is the most confident I've seen my little girl in years, on a par with when she first mastered the Sixty-Four Palms. And the happy but surprised look she had when Hanabi-chan woke up was simply adorable.
"My little girl is growing up."
It wasn't Hiashi-dono acting the doting father that freaked him out, Neji would later observe. It was the fact that he did not once break from his Hyuuga monotone while doing so. To be able to say something like that, in a tone that might well make an Aburame blink in professional envy, and still make very clear one's utter sincerity bespoke a rare and frightening gift.
Pushing the matter of idiosyncratic vocal mannerisms aside, Neji once more allowed a flutter of hope to enter his heart. Perhaps, just perhaps, he might be able to avoid gruesome, twisty fatherly punishment today. Hiashi-dono had professed to being delighted, after all. Maybe-
"In fact, Neji-kun, Hinata-chan's training has had such a positive effect that I thought you might benefit from something similar. With that in mind, I've taken the liberty of having a word with a jounin of my acquaintance."
Neji felt his heart drop to his sandals, where it was trampled in a cattle stampede-
"Yo, Hiashi. This the kid?"
-and then eaten by a python.
Hiashi nodded, waving the purple-haired kunoichi forward. "Yes, Mitarashi-san. This is my nephew Neji. Neji-kun, an old acquaintance of mine, Special Jounin Mitarashi Anko."
Her characteristic grin stretching even wider at the slight look of terror on the boy's face, the snake mistress circled her new student with a possessive eye before turning back to the clan head.
"Eh. I'll either have him chewing nails and spitting kunai in a fortnight or break him in a week."
Hiashi considered for a moment before cheerfully (or at least, as close as a traditional Hyuuga ever got) nodding.
"Yes, I believe that would be satisfactory. By all means, take as long as you need. Have a pleasant training session, Neji-kun."
Yes, thought the shell-shocked Neji. Hiashi-dono was angry.
Omake no Jutsu!
Neji watched, impassive, as his cousin twitched in the grips of the genjutsu, flinching slightly at each muttered "Youth!" or "Yosh!"
"You did the right thing, Neji," said Kurenai-sensei, placing a comforting hand on the suffering youth's shoulder. "The 'Training from Hell' genjutsu will keep her from hurting herself until the Yamanaka can trace the source of the insanity and hopefully treat it."
Nodding absently in thanks, the stoic Hyuuga prodigy went back to watching over his cousin.
'Actually wanting to train with Gai-sensei. I'm sorry, Hinata-sama. I had to help you. Forgive me.'
...And here's the latest chapter! To pre-empt some popssible questions that might arise, no, appearances notwithstanding, I am not going to add Hinata to the running. It's still Shizune or Tenten and stands to remain that way for the forseeable future.
This marks the limit of my fore-planning, at least for 'Oops!' itself. I still have reams of ideas for 'Tales', though. As such, don't expect regular updates for 'Oops' anymore. There will still BE updates, panic not, but they won't be regular.
Of course, that implies that they were regular in the first place.
Now, the reviews:
Sadly, there were far too many reviews from my wondrful readers to conveniently respond to here. That being the case, I'm going to have to restrict myself to answering the more, for want of a better word, verbose ones only. That being said, I appreciate and treasure every review i recieve, from the page-and-a-half diatribes to the simple "This is good" ones. If you submitted a review that isn't mentioned below, please don't think it's not appreciated.
Anyway, to business:
InARealPickle: True, but i think the Tetsubo works better.
CelticReaper: the Whip might make a reappearance, but not soon. Naruto hasn't earned it yet!
Ageant: I thank you for your kind wishes, my friend. May the Beer Volcano overflow for you as well.
Wonderbee31: I'm glad you liked it. Tenten is a fun character to write for and about. And there's something about the scarecrow that's fun to mess with, ne?
FailGate: Concerning the Kakashi scenes, i sometimes feel i may have seen too much Looney Tunes as a child. Maybe?
Sir Trib The Bold: You'd think that, and it's certainly true that Kyuubi would probably like it, but for Naruto it means lots of extra applications of the 'Hands in your Pockets' rule. no missions with delicate stuff (like buildings, trees, bank vaults...) and really, being essentially known as "the ninja who can really break stuff"...? less cool than you'd think.
Capito Celcior: Yeah, at the moment Tenten's ahead, but i have some ideas...
cbadgr: Yep. there's something fun about the laconic, lazy Kakashi getting some karma, isn't there? the trick is to make them funny. THAT'S the challenge, i find.
kitsune of darkfire: sweet Pasta, that was a long sentance! glad you liked it mate, and i'll do my best.
Lord Sia: Hmm...i've done one 'Tales' chapter with an Akatsuki so far...interesting.
Bloodreaver Alpha: Oookaaay...SOMEONE'S channeling Jiraya...
I like the way you think.
Quathis: Yeah, you'd be hard-pressed to find a ninja on the show without some quirk. i suspect it's to make the characters more memorable, but it also provides a handy writing hook.
spottedstar2: will do and glad you liked it!
Murasaki Tsukimaru: it just fits him, doesn't it?
helovestowrite: -ahem- Yosh! Another devotee of Youth has appeared! I thank you for your most Youthful comments, my friend! And Yes, Funny Kyuubi is indeed bursting forth with the Fires of Youthful Humour!
The Chaos Master: Duely noted. sorry, but the Tetsubo is what he has. As far as the Ax-sword, sorry, i haven;t seen anything of Fate Stay Night, so it's not something i can really comment on. thanks for the comment, though.
DigiDrew: Well, that's effusive. thank you very much!
dogbertcarroll: you, sir, have a dirty mind. I heartily approve!
Maloran: ...Yeah, I don't think even Kyuubi would be willing to allow THAT level of potential mayhem come to pass.
DragonSoul: "Smylingsnake: His writing will make you snort!" I like that, thank you kindly!
EspyLacopa: the link seems to be broken. thanks for it all the same.
Rainy Day Pearl: a fight scene without snappy dialogue is little more than a long description with a lot of grunting, in my humble opinion. :P
I hope you liked the chapter!
Yuki no Fukushuu: i love this kind of review. Thank you very much!
Veodus: Nope, the tetsubo description lines came entirely from my fevered imagination. glad you liked them.
Meatzman2: well, i'm happy it's grown on you. thanks!
snowecat: I had a similar experience myself in the museum in Ueno, Tokyo. there was a display of Katana blades there that just sent chills up my spine, all sharp and silver and glinting in the light...
Oracle Oci.: Nah. for the purposes of this fic, the changes are irreversible. besides, do you think Naruto's going to let the Kyuubi mess with his body a second time?
flood125: a very good point indeed...
volrath77: It's that line that i'm trying to be careful about crossing, keeping the really silly and outragious stuff for 'Tales'. good to know i haven't crossed over it just yet.
Finbar: all very good points, and much in line with my own thoughts. Here's hoping this chapter hasn't dashed your expectations, but there it is. as for Neji/Shiz, i'm leaning in that direction, but have yet to figure out a plausible plot. if you have some suggestions or ideas, please PM me.
Lady Knight Keladry: Glad you liked it! i take it you're a Tamora Pierce fan?
Masu Trout: man, where would i begin with that? so...many...verbal...mannerisms!
Mark Solo: What do you mean, mate? weapons are COOL!
Kuroyama-san will be reappearing at some point, though i am yet not sure when.
Cristalake: I was pretty pleased with that one myself! And yes, i prefer to know my reviewers, so no anonymous reviews here.
AngelForm: Thanks! Naruto needed a weapon because Tenten decided he needed a weapon. simple as that, really.
ol69: No, both the Whip and the Tetsubo would be too much awesome.
Belle Mort 13: i hadn't planned on it, but i'll lend the matter some thought. Maybe a joint mission with Team Gai...
apathetica: fear not, no harem fics here!
The 17th Immortal: -looks shifty- TVTropes? what is this thing you speak of?
Glad you liked it, mate.
Wolf Nosferatu: I've said it before and i'll say it again: The Testubo just FITS.
greivergf: Neji's weapon? Cat 'o Nine Tails, of course ;)
I'm kidding, i'm kidding! Neji's not treally the sort for a weapon. maybe a set of throwing daggers or some other distance weapon. maybe senbon needles. good suggestions for the others, though i picture Shikamaru as more of a pulley-crossbow sniper sort of fellow. "Huh? oh, ok." -thung- "Ok, headshot, back to the cloud watching."
Kaouthakis: Ok, those comments make me picture Gai in a singles bar. please stop.
PhoenixFTW: That's me, causing facial injuries through the power of my writing. Thanks!
Tyrchon: I'd like to see THAT court scene: "Uzumaki Naruto, how do you plead on these charges of war crimes?" "Not Guilty on the grounds that I can squash you. literally." "When you put it THAT way..."
I N V E E S A B L E: Then i consider that a victory. the happy energetic cnaracters in shounen manga are sadly under-appreciated, i feel.
daniel 29: Yup. after all, Naruto has seen the results of pervy behaviour and the punishments thereof. besides, the Super Strength technique is cool, and we all know how Naruto feels about cool techniques.
alichi: I absolutely LOVE the variety of reviews i get for this story! thank you!
I'm glad you liked the premise. as i said way back in chapter one, i wanted to do a Super-Naruto story with a difference. i like to think i'm doing pretty well so far, but time will tell.
I'm not sure i'll be able to manage every item on your list, but after the response the 'San Dai Kami' chapter on 'Tales' got, i may be putting together a few "Naruto vs. ?" chapters for your enjoyment. it depends on if i can make them funny.
Richtar: now that just warms my heart. thank you!
Icy Sapphire15: as do i, my friend. "Princess Bride" is very nearly as awesome as Bruce Campbell, with better swordfights. and so quotable, too!
Well, that's it for the reviews. As i said above, i have a vague plan for the next chapter and a few ideas for later ones.
I'll mainly be working on 'Tales' and 'Butterflies' the next few updates, as i have concrete plans for them, but if the Muse descends from hanging out with the Noodly One, i'll get to writing.
Fear not, gentle readers, there will be no Hiatus notices posted here! Irregular updates, yes. Hiatus, no.
Still, if anyone has some suggestions, PM me. i can't promise i'll use them, or not twist them utterly out of their original form if i do, but feel free!
Once again, thank you all for your patience.